Halloween can be a real treat -- and a little tricky, too. What to do until the kids hit the candy trail in the evening? Get the festivities started early by throwing a halloween party where the freaky-themed foods and the hands-on crafts will keep kids occupied until costume time.
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tips + how-tos

Boy with Vampire Mouth

TIPS, CRAFTS + TUNES

CHILD'S PLAY
 Save your energy -- and let the kids exhaust some of their supply.

Play (partial) dress-up.
 They can't wait to put on their costumes, huh? Give in...a little. Let them stay in their pajamas and put on one or two pieces at breakfast.

Invite kids to help with party decorations.
 In fact, have that be the first activity of the day. Ask for volunteers to help set the table, scatter the balloons, and fill bowls with candy or other treats.

Extend activities.
 Set up games in which they can watch each other take turns. One idea: Pin the body parts on the monster. Print a free image of a monster off the Web, then cut the limbs off its body. Tape the body to a wall and let blindfolded kids try to tape arms and legs in the right places.

EYE CANDY
 Instead of draping fake cobwebs all over the house, hang eyeball balloons from the ceiling. Using double-sided tape, attach construction paper circles to inflated white balloons. Finish the look by drawing a few squiggly veins with a thick red marker.

FACE TIME
 Make jack-o'-lantern juice glasses by cutting the eyes, nose and mouth out of 3-inch pieces of black construction paper (use an X-Acto precision knife), then taping the paper to clear tumblers.

UNDER THE SPELL
 Kick-start the morning with our haunted Halloween playlist.

Walking with a Ghost, Tegan and Sara
 I Put a Spell on You, Screamin' Jay Hawkins
 Little Ghost, The White Stripes
 Frankenstein, The Edgar Winter Group
 Purple People Eater, Sheb Wooley
 Wolfman's Brother, Phish
 Werewolves of London, Warren Zevon
 Thriller, Michael Jackson
 Witch Doctor, Alvin and the Chipmunks